A public cemetery opened in 1858 with designs for buildings and laying out by Thomas Denville Barry and planting specification by Edward Kemp, extended in c 1912 to the design of the Borough Engineer, Arthur W Brindley.
In May 1856 the St Helens Burial Board advertised for some 15 to 20 statute acres (c 6-8ha) of land for a cemetery, with six offers received in June 1856 when it was resolved to also approach Sir Robert Gerard at Garswood to see if he would sell any of his land at Windle (Burial Board Minutes, May 1856). Various sites, including Sir Robert Gerard's land, were inspected by the Board and also, at their request, by T D Barry of Liverpool (ibid, July 1856). Sir Robert Gerard's site had an open aspect to the south and good drainage and, following negotiations, an offer was made in July 1856 of £300 per acre for 20 acres (c 8ha) of his land at Arnold's Farm with immediate possession and an additional sum, to be negotiated, for buildings and timber (ibid).
It appears that the purchase was agreed by August 1856 when the Burial Board invited nine named parties, including T D Barry, Mr Gay of Bradford, and Mr Kemp of Birkenhead, plus all architects, surveyors, and builders in St Helens, to submit plans and estimates for the cemetery (ibid, August 1856). The proposals were to include three chapels, two lodges, and entrance gates as well as designs for ornamental planting and laying out (ibid). Some of the parties submitted proposals for the buildings only, some for the laying out, and others for both. The scheme chosen was one of the latter by T D Barry (The Builder 1856). Thomas Denville Barry designed buildings for a number of cemeteries in south Lancashire including Heywood, Warrington and Atherton in 1855, Toxteth Park (qv) in 1856, and Liverpool (Anfield) Cemetery (qv) in 1860.
In December 1856 the Board agreed that the site should be fenced with iron hurdles and in January 1857 they received tenders for both the building work and earthworks (Burial Board Minutes, December 1856, January 1857). Edwin Knight of Manchester was appointed to carry out earthworks, fencing, laying out and planting for the sum of £2618 and John Middleton of St Helens to construct the buildings in the sum of £4200 12s 3d (ibid, January 1857). The whole of the works were overseen by Mr Elliot who was appointed Clerk of Works in August 1857 (ibid, August 1857). In late 1857 it was agreed that Edward Kemp should be requested to prepare a plan for planting the cemetery and to superintend this work (ibid, October and November 1857). Trees and shrubs were supplied, to Kemp's specification, by Messrs Davies and Francis for the sum of £412 13s 11d and the payment for Kemp's services was £57 1s 3d (Burial Board letters, 1857 and 1858). Kemp, who was responsible for the laying out of Birkenhead Park (qv) to designs by Joseph Paxton, and was appointed superintendent there in 1845, in 1847 also commenced a private practice. In addition to designs for a number of public parks Kemp designed the layout of the Anfield Cemetery (qv), opened in 1863, and Birkenhead Cemetery (qv) in 1864.
The site was laid out with two main curving drives, forming a heart-shape, leading off an axial entrance drive with informal paths linking and leading off from this formal arrangement (OS 1893-4). The first burials took place in the cemetery, then known as Windleshaw Cemetery, in 1858. In c 1889 a single-storey building, possibly a cemetery office, was constructed adjacent to the two lodges at the principal entrance. In c 1912 the cemetery was slightly extended to the north and west, increasing the total area to c 11ha (Plan of the Cemetery Extension, 1912).
The cemetery, then known as the Borough Cemetery, was further extended to the north and west in the late-1930s (outside the area here registered) and a plan for additional future expansion to the west was approved in 1938 (Plan of Current and Future Cemetery Extensions, 1938). In 1959-62 a Crematorium and detached Chapel of Remembrance by architect Harry Bannister were constructed and set within formal lawned grounds adjoining the extended cemetery to the west (outside the area here registered).
In 2002 the extension approved in 1938 has been partly implemented (outside the area here registered). Only one of the three cemetery chapels now (2002) remains together with the three entrance buildings, these latter now in private ownership. St Helens Borough Cemetery remains in use and in the ownership of St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING
The c 11ha cemetery is situated c 3km to the north-north-west of St Helens town centre. To the west and north the roughly square site is bounded by mid and late-C20 extensions of the cemetery (outside the area here registered), with burial areas laid out in a grid pattern. Extension ground to the north adjoins the East Lancashire Road, constructed in the 1930s, and to the west the Crematorium grounds, enclosed to the east and north-east by a high evergreen hedge, together with future burial ground, currently in cultivation, extend to Rainford Road. To the south the cemetery adjoins the grounds of a school, this boundary being marked by a high stone wall, an area of open ground formerly a cemetery yard with glasshouses (OS 1937) and C20 housing where the boundary is marked by C20 fencing. The irregular eastern boundary adjoins Elm Lodge, a C19 villa, and a C17 Roman Catholic burial ground (outside the area here registered). The small rectangular plot of the latter extends into the cemetery, with the boundary marked by a low stone wall, and contains the ruined tower and walls of a chantry chapel (listed grade II*), known as Windleshaw Abbey, and the shaft of a C17 cross (listed grade II). To the north of the C17 burial ground the cemetery adjoins Abbey Road with the boundary generally marked by a high stone wall. At the north-east corner of the cemetery the west boundary wall to Abbey Road is lower, with evidence of former railings, giving a view into the cemetery from the road and a residential property opposite which is a former lodge to Windle Hall to the north.
The ground within the cemetery is very gently undulating with the adjoining 1930s and later extension grounds falling to the north and west with views out over these areas to the surrounding country from the north-west boundary. To the west, south, and east the surrounding area is largely residential with C20 housing. Land to the north, beyond the East Lancashire Road, is largely in agricultural use.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES
The principal entrance is from Hard Lane at the south-east corner of the site and lies at the centre of an elongated semicircular inset from the road. It is marked by a vehicular entrance with late-C20 iron gates flanked by two unmarked pedestrian entrances with the whole set between two lodges. The lodge buildings are both two storey and of similar design in coursed stone rubble with ashlar dressings below steeply pitched blue slate roofs. To the road side the lodges are enclosed, to the south-west by C20 railings and to the north-east by a low stone wall topped with similar railings, each line of enclosure terminating adjacent to the road at a stone pier with gabled coping. The layout and design of the principal entrance dates from 1856 and is by T D Barry with C20 alterations. Immediately to the north of the north-east lodge is a single-storey building, similar in materials and design to the lodges, save for a lower roof pitch, and with an incised stone bearing the inscription 'Jubilee 1887'.
Some 190m north-north-east of the principal entrance there is access into the cemetery from Abbey Road via the C17 burial ground. This entrance, in the northern boundary wall of the burial ground is marked by a pair of C19 cast-iron gates flanked by stone piers and is indicated on the OS map of 1893-4. An entrance from the East Lancashire Road into the 1930s extension ground is situated 500m north-north-west of the principal entrance. From Rainford Road to the west there is access into the cemetery through the late C20 Gardens of Remembrance and the 1930s extension ground. On the southern boundary, 250m west of the principal entrance an access track from Rainford Road leads into the cemetery with the vehicular entrance marked by C20 iron gates. This entrance formerly served a groundmen's compound area adjoining the cemetery (OS 1893-4) which was later incorporated into the burial area (OS 1937).
The Church of England mortuary chapel is sited at the head of an axial approach drive 220m north-north-west of the principal entrance. The single-storey stone chapel with blue slate roof is in the Decorated Gothic style with a short bell tower above the main south-east door. The head of the bell tower has possibly been altered. The design of 1856 is by T D Barry and is the only one remaining of three mortuary chapels which he designed for the cemetery. The chapel is similar in style to Barry's chapel (listed grade II) at Toxteth Park Cemetery (qv) which dates from 1855-6.
From the principal entrance an 8m wide axial entrance drive leads north-north-west 220m to the Church of England mortuary chapel. Beyond the entrance buildings the entrance drive is lined for some 50m by semicircular lawns, with formal planting beds, backed by mature trees and shrubs. Some 80m from the principal entrance, from a staggered junction, two main drives lead off to the north and north-west from the entrance drive, with the former junction marked by a First World War memorial in the form of a stone cross. The latter junction is marked by a circular planting bed with low sandstone surround which is indicated on the 1927 OS map as a fountain. Each of these main drives curves to rejoin the entrance drive immediately to the south-east of the chapel, thus forming a loosely symmetrical heart shape layout. Some 240m north of the principal entrance the northerly drive leads to the site of the Roman Catholic mortuary chapel, the outline of which is now (2002) indicated by low stone walls enclosing a raised lawned area. The north-west drive leads to the site of the Nonconformist chapel, 170m north-west of the principal entrance, which is similarly marked.
The two halves of the heart-shape design are laid out with narrow winding paths which converge, in each half, at a circular lawned feature. One of these features is situated at a mid-point between the Church of England chapel and the Roman Catholic chapel site to the north-east and the other sited similarly in relation to the Nonconformist chapel site to the south-south-west. The former circular junction is encircled with trees and the latter partially so.
From the principal entrance paths lead off to the north and west to form a circuit enclosing the heart-shaped drives, with the burial areas divided by generally winding paths linking the circuit path to the main drives and the two former chapel sites. In the east of the cemetery the circuit path follows the west and north boundaries of the C17 burial ground. In the west of the cemetery, 275m north-west of the principal entrance, the circuit path intersects with the western heart-shaped drive. The circuit path is indicated on the OS map of 1893-4 at which time it formed a perimeter route around the cemetery. From the junction with the heart-shaped drive a wide path curves north-west for c 50m to St Thomas's Well which comprises, within a low privet hedge, a c 4m diameter low sandstone wall above a sunken shaft protected by a metal grating at ground level. St Thomas's Well is indicated on the 1850 OS map and also on that of 1893-4, lying outside the cemetery.
From St Thomas's Well paths lead northwards and southwards, forming a semicircle, to rejoin the circuit path at junctions marked by circular features 120m north-north-west and south of the Well respectively. These features, the former tarmacked and the latter lawned, form viewing points over lower ground to the north and west and, as indicated on the 1893-4 OS map, mark the north-west and south-west corners of the C19 cemetery. A further path leads westwards for 20m from St Thomas's Well to join a path leading northwards for 180m and southwards for 190m where, from junctions with further circular features, each arm returns eastwards to join the C19 circuit path 290m north and 100m west of the principal entrance respectively. This outer path follows the perimeter of the cemetery as extended in c 1912 (Plan of the Cemetery Extension, 1912) and is linked by curving paths to the C19 circuit path.
The cemetery is generously planted with mature trees and shrubs with the circuit path being generally lined with trees and path junctions frequently marked by planting in small groups. This style of planting is generally in keeping with that indicated on the 1893-4 OS map. The cemetery also contains a profusion of fine C19 and early-C20 monuments, in particular lining the entrance drive to the south-east of the chapel and within the two halves of the heart-shaped burial area. The graves of many notable local people include that of the Beecham family, of Beecham's Powders fame, and, c 45m north-east of the Church of England chapel, the late-C19 table tomb monument of the glass-manufacturing Pilkington family.
The Builder XIV, no 716 (25 October 1856), 586
Pevsner N, The Buildings of England: Lancashire South (1969), 386
Brooks C, Mortal Remains (1989), 52, 66
Brindley A W, Borough Engineer, Plan of the Cemetery Extension, 1" to 41.66', 1912 (S/BB/19/2), (St Helens Library Archives)
Stratham A P, Borough Engineer, Plan of Current and Future Cemetery Extensions, 1" to 41.66', drawn 1935, approved with Borough Seal 1938 (S/BB/19/6), (St Helens Library Archives)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1850
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1893-4
St Helens Burial Board papers (St Helens Library Archives): Burial Board Minutes, vol 1, 13 May 1857, 1 July1870 (S/BB/1/1); Letters received (S/BB/3/1).
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
Borough Cemetery, St Helens is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Borough Cemetery is a complex early High Victorian (1856-58) public cemetery for a provincial town.
* The buildings and layout were by an eminent local architect Thomas Denville Barry who specialised in cemeteries in the region (including Toxteth and Preston, qv) and made dramatic use of the undulating topography.
* Extensive and complex planting by a prolific and nationally renowned designer, Edward Kemp which compliments Barry's layout and survives relatively complete.
* Local and national social interest is expressed in an artistically rich variety of C19 monuments including many St Helens worthies.
* The cemetery layout survives relatively intact despite the loss of two of the original three chapels.
Description written: September 2002
Amended: November 2002
Register Inspector: HMT
Edited: December 2009
This List entry has been amended to add the source for War Memorials Online. This source was not used in the compilation of this List entry but is added here as a guide for further reading, 11 July 2017.